There’s a subject heading for that!?: exquisite corpse (game)

05 Feb

First of all, exquisite corpse (game) is an amazing subject heading in so many ways. It is beautiful, eerie, horrific, bizarre, but most of all intriguing.

I stumbled upon this gem while verifying an author name in the LC catalog. Initially, because of its qualifier “(game)”, a childhood game from playground days called (Light as a Feather) Stiff as a Board popped into my mind. That game is played in the movie The Craft, which is likely where everyone picked it up from. This made me think of other odd games we played, including Sandman (in this article), Bloody Mary, and a phantom limb game–all of which are explained quite well in this article. Takes me back! That’s what we did before computers and cellphones.

So what is the exquisite corpse (game)? It’s a parlor game that was not scary, believe-it-or-not:

LC Authorities record for exquisite corpse (game)

LC Authorities record for exquisite corpse (game)

As the Authorities scope note explains, this is a written or drawn game in which a single sheet of paper is passed around and everyone contributes a portion without seeing what the previous people did. After reading that, I realized that I had played this game in college with my writers’ group, and a llama played a major role in that shared story we created. The broader sub. head. is surrealist games, which unfortunately has no other narrower terms besides this one, and not much description itself.

Since the game was created and originally played in Paris, cadavre exquis (game) is noted as a 450. Two citations in the Wikipedia page explain the origin of the game’s name: “The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine” was the first sentence from the game, of course written in French. Now the llama in the story from my game doesn’t seem as silly. In 2012, a film called The Exquisite Corpse Project takes this game into movie making and is a collaboration of five people. I’m interested in seeing it now.

Let’s check the LC Catalog for use figures:

LC Catalog subject browse search for exquisite corpse

LC Catalog subject browse search for exquisite corpse

Quite readily, we see that there isn’t much use nor many derivatives of the sub. head. with delimiters. There are four total hits–two with the plain heading and two with exhibitions tacked on as the descriptor. But this makes sense, since the game has physical products made and could be put up for display. It would be cool to revive this parlor game and then create our own exhibition. Think of what could be written or drawn with all the mobile phones out there! It’s Draw Something plus texting, and then put on display–or not. I bet a lot of NSFW creations would arise, though the Wikipedia article already chose a great drawing to display for that. Someone could have at least included a written example or two as well.

Have you ever played this game, with or without knowing its true name? Any other bizarre kids games that I didn’t mention here already? Want to start the new exquisite corpse craze with me? We could take over Twitter! I’m @ReadWriteLib, if you are wondering.

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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


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